CHICAGO — Runways in the world’s fashion capitals came alive for 2011’s fall season, as if to herald an end to recessionary reserve and embrace edgy elegance again.
Ultra-bright colors, extreme ruffles and riotous patterns starred in over-the-top productions featuring post-apocalyptic landscapes, manacled models and psychedelic toadstools. Only minutes elapsed between many of the designer duds’ debuts and the time they hit the streets, knocked off for the mass market under many more-affordable labels.
Some of the season’s styles—the classically tailored mid-century modern and menswear-inspired looks, for example—shouldn’t present professional dry cleaners with problems if they remember to read their care labels and steady their skill sets. But others may have the most seasoned operators at a loss for a cleaning strategy, or at risk for a claim.
And as the following four trends move from the runway to the mall, they have the potential to present the biggest challenges.
Women are wearing the most succulent brights this season, with almost-edible hues such as raspberry red, plum purple and pure-guava pink bumping up against each other in big blocks of color. Prints and patterns that resembled Rorschach tests and abstract art hit the runways in silk, knit and tweed ensembles, while solids shone in evening dresses and “statement” coats.
“Take care when sorting to ensure they retain their bright hues,” says Chris Allsbrooks, director of training operations for ZIPS Dry Cleaners, and test for colorfastness before attempting stain removal with wet-side agents.
To avoid stripping garments of the optical brighteners used to make them so shimmery, “make sure your solvent is in good shape,” says Alan Spielvogel, garment analyst with the National Cleaners Association (NCA). “A lot of tweeds are yarn-dyed, so if any moisture gets on the garment from perspiration or foods and beverages, the [dyes] can bleed.”
A short cycle is the best strategy, and operators should clean geometric designs in net bags to guard against dye migration and transfer.
“Check the labels,” says Joseph Hallak Jr., vice president of Hallak Cleaners. “A lot of bright colors have wet cleaning or dry cleaning as a preferred method.” On this and other hard-to-clean styles, he adds, “the worst thing is to have to try to repair your reputation.”